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Jobs blow as call centre to be axed

A HIGHLAND village has been dealt a blow with the closure of its largest private-sector employer.

The 21 people working at Serco's call centre in Brora - home to only 1,200 people - have been told their jobs will go as the private company shuts its base in east Sutherland.

The workers, who handle public health campaign inquiries, were offered new posts - 225 miles away in Glasgow.

Deirdre Mackay, Highland Council's Sutherland area leader, described the impact on the rural community as "truly devastating".

In crude population terms, even when adding the people in the surrounding area, it is the equivalent of 6,000 jobs going in Glasgow or almost 5,000 in Edinburgh. But the true impact will be greater given that over-60s account for almost 30 per cent of the Brora population, compared to just over 20 per cent for Scotland as a whole.

Ms Mackay said the move was particularly disappointing given the long-standing belief that new technologies would be game changers for rural communities such as Brora.

"But here we see a national firm, which makes its money through public sector contracts, electing to walk away from a workforce that has served it well and to centralise its business in Glasgow," she said. "This is a real David and Goliath story and the offer of relocation to Glasgow speaks for itself."

Recent research into the effects of welfare reform had shown East Sutherland was the second worst affected area in the Highland Council area, she said.

Serco blamed the move on clients moving from 0800 to 0300 numbers and from phone to online channels and text, which required fewer people to service. It said that over two years demand had fallen 50 per cent. The service is to be run from its Finnieston, Glasgow, site.

Garry Robinson, the firm's customer services director, said. "We will be giving our staff every support during coming weeks."

Meanwhile, on Harris, the GSH Group, a national building repair and maintenance services firm, has confirmed it will centralise all its UK-wide operational and administration activities in its headquarters in England.

It means the loss of 20 jobs on the island.

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